overnights

Insecure Season-Finale Recap: Thirtysomething

Insecure

Ghost-Like
Season 3 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating *****

Insecure

Ghost-Like
Season 3 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: HBO

This season of Insecure has felt waterlogged. There have been bursts of thrilling momentum (like Issa finally quitting her job) and long bouts of inertia that felt largely self-imposed. The show had a tendency of getting in its own way. I am finishing this season frustrated, and a little maddened by the show’s dredging up of old lovers and beaten-dead discussions and tropes. Fittingly, the season finale is titled “Ghost-Like.” It’s as beautiful and enticingly shot as ever, with charming moments that remind you of what the show does best.

This episode revolves around a commemoration of Issa’s 30th birthday. But in season one, which premiered in 2016, Issa turned 29, meaning that this birthday should be her 31st. I say this, not to nitpick, but because a show so focused on what feels like the generation-specific angst of its characters should be careful to sort out its characters ages. It’s also, again, proof of how little the show commits to knowing its characters beyond a surface level. I’ve long thought Issa could be a Libra. I would prefer to know Issa better as opposed to more screen time being dedicated to Lawrence, who has been seamlessly integrated into the latter half of this season.

If he’s going to be a part of the friend group, à la Maxine and Kyle on Living Single, or even William from Girlfriends, I think the show needs to definitively decide whether he and Issa are romantic or not. The back and forth makes for lively Twitter convos but I’m tired. I cannot figure out why Lawrence was shown in a heart-to-heart with his parent while we’ve never seen Issa interact with hers. This show is decidedly much more focused on men than I’d ever anticipated. Why is the show so invested in Lawrence’s interiority? HE SHOULDN’T EVEN BE HERE!!! He reveals to his handsome father that he wants commitment of the sort his parents had, but the women he’s meeting are some variety of dysfunctional. “Every woman I went out with was either demanding, needy, divorced …” That he thinks nothing of placing divorced women in some category of undesirability is galling.

The characters’ immaturity, or just their unfamiliarity with what are, to me, regular occurrences of late-20s living provide the greatest indicators of the show’s class positioning of its characters. They are, as Troy Patterson noted in an excellent review, “child(ren) of the black professional class exiled into the gig economy.” Issa is, if I remember correctly, only employed as a property manager part time, and supplementing her income by driving Lyft. She isn’t fretting over not having insurance or piled-up bills, she’s instead seeking self-fulfillment. Which is great! Good for her. I’m 29. I have friends with babies. I have friends who have been divorced or separated. They live in L.A., not, like, Omaha. A divorced woman should not be jarring, Lawrence! I also couldn’t shake the feeling that the main purpose of Lawrence’s sit-down with his dad was to assure us that he, like Molly, is the child of a two-parent, married household. Issa’s parents, as she mentioned on her date with Nathan, are divorced.

Molly’s myriad personality defects are most often displayed in the professional arena. Last week, she took charge of the presentation she had prepared with Taurean, a move that earned her praise from her superiors and iciness from Taurean. This show is not feminist, but it does frequently put on a veneer of inoffensive feminist-lite sensibilities. Molly took full credit for an assignment which had been a shared effort. She instead spins her bogarting the presentation into some sort of Girlboss feminist endeavor, highlighting that a man in her position would have been called enterprising and bold, not pushy. But if a man had done what she did, he’d be an asshole, just as Molly is right now.

The most interesting work dynamics were Molly’s prickly interactions with her other black female counterparts and the show’s first, tentative explorations of black men’s misogyny directed at black women. When Taurean calls her “aggressive” we know that it’s a barb, but it’s complicated by the fact that they are of the same racial background. Also the two women’s hesitation toward Molly was never explored. The feudal tensions in the office are never explained. It could have been rote sexism, but then the two female associates side with Taurean when he jumps the Molly ship. Why is her bullish self-absorption and need for professional advancement being slyly heralded as feminist?

By the time Molly is escorting her to her 30th (or 31st) birthday surprise, a movie screening at the the park, Issa seems to be free of her obsession with Nathan. When Nathan shows up at Issa’s, bearing flowers and an explanation for his prolonged absence, Molly turns him away. This was remarkably out of line and ill-advised. Molly also states that Nathan has been gone for a month, which makes no sense! He’s been gone for two weeks at most! They head to the movie screening, where Lawrence and Chad, who along with Molly has become my season favorite, are present. The woman responsible for the screening is someone Lawrence is dating. Issa later approaches her for guidance with putting on her block party. Earlier, Issa interviewed for another nonprofit position, but we don’t yet know whether she got it, or will take the position if offered.

Molly also attempts to patch up things with Andrew, and he is delightfully curt with her. He isn’t receptive to her apology, and rightfully so. Most perplexing to me is Insecure’s decision regarding which issues they will tease out (this is the second time the show has attempted to discuss Molly dating an Asian man) and those it skips over. Either way, Molly’s apology was half-assed and insincere and Andrew deserves more. At the park, Molly runs into her past fling, Jared, who is there with another man whom she assumes is his lover. She calls him gay to Issa when she scampers away, voicing her discomfort. In this aggressively heterosexual show, Molly’s hesitation to date a queer or bisexual man, then her insistence that he’s gay is annoying. He is dating a man, possibly, because that is literally the definition of bisexuality. Again, the show erred toward immaturity on a topic where it could have been more sensitive or even enlightening.

They get home and Molly informs Issa that she’d run into Nathan, and Issa reacts with an appropriate amount of anger. I still do not know how to feel about this friendship. It is the show’s primary relationship but it’s also dreadfully under-explored. Their argument quickly devolves into familiar toxic bouts of slights and passive-aggressive insults. I love the two together in theory, but I hope next season fleshes out their relationship more.

At home, Issa runs into Nathan. Nathan explains that she did not ghost her, not really, he’d run away because of something which seems like social anxiety or depression or just genuine caginess around another person that he hadn’t known for long. Issa’s dismissal is kind of callous and she shrugs off what seems to be his genuine vulnerability as excuses and a lack of consideration. Again, the show could have tried to explore mental illness and the ways that one’s social-media performance can hide genuine mental-health issues. I have bipolar 2 disorder; I’ve spent plenty of manic days tweeting and Instagramming, because it was literally all that I could do. I thought Issa’s handling of it was rude. But the show ended with her setting up her new apartment and hopefully looking forward. I am interested in what’s next for both Issa and Molly.

Insecure Season-Finale Recap: Thirtysomething